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Puerto Rican empanadas filled with ground beef, potatoes, cheese, and plenty of seasoning! Every bite of these beef empanadas is bursting with flavor. Perfect for lunch, dinner, a snack, or even packing into a lunchbox! 🥟
Best Beef Empanadas Recipe
We love Puerto Rican recipes, and this dish has to be our favorite. Using homemade dough or Goya empanada shells, you can make the most delicious meal!
Puerto Rican empanadillas de carne are similar to Cuban pastelitos de carne and Mexican empanadas de carne. Pastelitos, empanadillas, and empanadas are all little hand pies filled with different kinds of ingredients from savory to sweet.
These empanadas are the start of a holiday meal. I made them for Christmas along with sous vide prime rib.
Another one of my all-time favorite beef recipes is my birria tacos! I love making them along with these empanadas for special celebrations!
Puerto Rican Empanadas Filling
Most of the ingredients to make this Puerto Rican empanada recipe are straightforward: ground beef, diced potatoes, tomato sauce, olives, water, salt, and shredded cheese (we use Monterey Jack!).
However, you will also need Sazón con Azafran and Sofrito. These are easy ingredients to find and use, but if you aren't familiar with them, we've written up a guide.
What is Sofrito?
Sofrito is a Puerto Rican cooking base that consists of onions, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and a blend of spices. The International section of your grocery store will stock sofrito in a jar. Goya is the most common brand.
What is Sazon seasoning?
Sazón literally means "seasoning" in Spanish. It generally consists of salt and pepper, garlic or garlic powder, coriander, and cumin, as a base. Then, with seasonings like Sazón con Azafran, additional ingredients are added to that seasoning base.
Sazón con Azafran is seasoning with saffron. Look for the Goya brand yellow and orange box in the International Aisle of your grocery store. It's very easy to find!
Empanada Dough Ingredients
You will also need the ingredients to make Puerto Rican empanada dough, or use premade pie dough or Goya empanada dough (discos). We love using discos - they make homemade empanadas recipes so easy!
If you're making it at home, this empanada dough recipe works similarly to pie crust. It's flaky and delicious. Plus, it's super easy to make! If you have the time, try making your own dough - it's worth giving it a try.
The ingredients to make the dough are very simple: all-purpose flour, butter, egg, water, and salt. That's it!
What are Goya discos?
To simplify making your pastelillos de carne, you can use Goya discos instead of making your own empanada dough.
Goya discos are sold in the frozen food section at the grocery store and are flat dough discs that are perfect for making empanadas.
You can also use refrigerated pie dough. No matter which kind of dough you opt to use, the filling is so flavorful, these meat turnovers will be delicious!
How to Make Empanadas
How to Make Empanada Dough
If you're using refrigerated pie dough or Goya discos, you can skip these steps. Otherwise, follow this recipe to make your own delicious, flaky, and buttery homemade empanada dough!
- Combine all-purpose flour and chilled, diced butter. Add egg, cold water, and a pinch of salt, then combine it all in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Pour the dough mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a ball with your hands. Wrap the plastic around the ball of dough, then refrigerate for 30 minutes while you make the filling.
How to Parboil Potatoes
Step one of making the filling for homemade beef empanadas is to parboil the potatoes.
Parboiled refers to potatoes that have been boiled to cook partially, but not all of the way through. Cooking the potatoes part of the way ahead of time softens them perfectly to use in your empanada filling.
- Place potatoes in a pot and cover them with cold water. Add a pinch of salt, then cover the pot with a lid and set it on the stove over high heat.
- Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat just slightly to keep it from boiling over. Continue boiling for approximately 5-10 minutes. If you dice the potatoes small before boiling, they will need less time.
- Test your potatoes with a fork. If it pierces the potato with just a little resistance, they're done. Remove them from the heat and drain the pot. Let the potatoes cool a little, and then they're ready to use in the empanada filling!
Spanish Beef Empanada Filling
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef. Cook it completely, breaking it up as it cooks. Drain any excess grease after fully cooking it.
- Add the parboiled diced potato, Goya sofrito, and ¼ cup water. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. After 10 minutes is up, stir in a can of tomato sauce, Goya Sazón con Azafran seasoning packet, and ¼ cup water. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.
- Finally, add 20 chopped Spanish olives to the pan, and mix through.
TIP—While you're making the filling, preheat your oven to 350°F. That way, it will be ready to bake the empanadas!
Rolling Dough for Empanadas
If you're using Goya discos, skip this step. If you're using premade pie dough or your own homemade empanada dough, follow these steps to roll out the dough:
- Sprinkle flour on a clean surface and roll the dough out using a rolling pin. Try to get the dough as thin as possible.
- Next, take a small plate or a bowl around 5 to 6 inches in diameter and place it on the dough. Use a knife to cut the dough with the bowl acting as a guide. Carefully pick up the dough discs and set them aside.
- Ball up the extra dough and roll it out again for another round of discs. Do this until all of the dough has been used. The amount of dough in this recipe should yield 10 to 12 discs.
Assembling and Baking Empanadas
Once you have your filling and dough ready, it's time to bake your pastelillos de carne! Follow these instructions to add the filling to the empanada dough:
- Place your empanada dough discs on a clean surface. Spoon 2 heaping Tbsp. of the empanada filling into each round. Top with a sprinkling of Monterey Jack cheese. Be careful not to over-stuff the empanadas, or they'll break apart when you cook them!
- Brush the edges of each meat pie with a little bit of water on the tip of your finger. This will help hold the dough together. Then, fold one side over the other and press the edges together with your fingers. Make sure to seal the edges tightly.
- Crimp the edges together using your fingers or by pressing a fork along the edge. Repeat until all empanadas are sealed.
- Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and evenly space out the empanadas on it. You may need two baking sheets, or you can bake them in batches. Pop the pan into the oven at 350°F and bake for 25-30 minutes. The crust should be nice and golden when they're done.
Can I fry empanadas instead of baking?
Yes. Traditionally, pastelillos are fried. We just enjoy the baked version as it's a little healthier!
Follow all of the steps to cook and assemble the empanada filling and dough. Seal them tightly, then fry them in a deep pan using neutral cooking oil.
Fill the skillet with enough oil to cover the empanadas. Fry them so the skillet isn't overcrowded, frying in batches if necessary. They should come out crispy and golden brown.
The best oils for frying are vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut oil, or any neutral oil.
Can you freeze empanadas?
You can freeze Puerto Rican beef empanadas very easily. Place them next to each other on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Be careful not to let them touch or they will freeze together!
Place the baking sheet in the freezer for about 1 hour. When completely frozen, you can remove the pastelillos de carne from the sheet and transfer them to freezer bags or a freezer-safe container. Make sure to label the bags or container with the freezing date.
How to Reheat Empanadas from Frozen
Bake Puerto Rican pastelillos straight out of the freezer, adding 5 minutes to the cooking time. Yes, it is that easy! No need to thaw them beforehand.
Best Beef Recipes
- Birria Tacos made with this amazing Beef Birria Recipe
- Carne Asada Tacos
- Carne Asada Tacos
- Grilled Porterhouse Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
- Keto Taco Casserole
- Grilled Picanha Steak
Mexican Street Corn is the perfect side dish for these recipes!
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Beef Empanadas (Puerto Rican Empanadas)
Empanada Dough (or use Goya discos)
- 2 ½ cups All purpose flour plus more for sprinkling
- 1 stick butter
- 1 egg beaten
- ¼ cup water
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 medium potato parboiled, peeled, and diced small
- ¼ cup Goya Sofrito plus 2 additional Tablespoons
- 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 packet Goya Sazón con Azafran
- 20 Spanish olives roughly chopped
- ¼ cup Water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup Monterey Jack cheese shredded
- Add 2 ½ cups AP flour, 1 stick of cold butter cut into small pieces, 1 egg, ¼ cup cold water, and a pinch of salt to a food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour dough mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap. Form mixture into a ball with your hands. Wrap the ball of dough tightly in the plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove dough from the fridge. Sprinkle some flour on a clean surface. Roll the dough out with a floured rolling pin as thin as possible. Place a 5-6 inch round bowl or plate onto the dough. Run a knife along the edges of the bowl until you have cut a round disc. Remove the dough round and set aside.Repeat with the rest of the dough. The dough will need to be formed into a ball and rolled out a few more times to cut the rest of the dough rounds. Repeat until all the dough has been cut into rounds.
- Parboil a medium potato for 7 to 10 minutes, then peel and dice into small pieces. Mince 20 Spanish olives.Heat a large skillet to medium and add ground beef. Cook completely and chop it into pieces as it cooks. Drain any excess grease when finished cooking. Add the potato, sofrito, and ¼ cup water to the pan.Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often to prevent the potatoes from sticking. Add tomato sauce, 1 Sazon con Azafron seasoning packet, ¼ cup water, and a pinch of salt.Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring often. Toss the olives into the pan and stir.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.Place the pastry rounds onto a clean surface. Spoon 2 Tbsp. or so of the meat filling into a pastry round. Top it with a sprinkling of Monterey Jack cheese. Rub the edges of the pastry round with a little bit of water.Pull one side of the pastry over the other and press the edges together with your fingers. Seal the edges tightly and crimp them together with your fingers or a fork.Try not to over-stuff the pastry rounds or they will break as they cook. Repeat with the remaining pastry rounds.
- Spray a baking sheet(s) with cooking spray. Place half of the empanadas on each pan. Place the pan(s) in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. You can use two separate pans or bake them in two separate batches. Serve, and enjoy!
- You can substitute making dough by using frozen Goya discos, found in the frozen foods section of your grocery store. Make sure to defrost for at least 30 minutes before you make the empanadas.
- Don't skip parboiling the potatoes. This is an important step that will make it so your potatoes are perfectly cooked for the filling!
Photos by Christine Rooney.